Our biggest challenge: Restoring trust in government

By Sen. Perry Dozier, Rep. Mark Klicker, Rep. Skyler Rude

Note: The following op-ed appeared in the Prosser Record-Bulletin and Dayton Chronicle during the week of Jan. 18.

This week a new delegation of legislators from the 16th District began the 2021 session. The 16th District stretches from Prosser to Dayton, the Tri-Cities to Walla Walla, and covers diverse industries and populations.

In the 16th District, two of us are new. Sen. Perry Dozier, a dryland wheat farmer from Waitsburg, succeeds Maureen Walsh, who represented the district for 16 years in the House and Senate. Rep. Mark Klicker, a Realtor and forest manager from Walla Walla, succeeds Bill Jenkin, who served two terms in the House.

Our returning member is Rep. Skyler Rude of Walla Walla, first elected to the House two years ago after long experience on the legislative staff.

Our district has a long history of working cooperatively, listening to the voices of the community, and working toward pragmatic solutions by putting partisanship aside. This collaborative spirit is going to be critical over the next few months

Our 2021 legislative session opened Jan. 11 in Olympia, and clearly we have urgent issues that require our attention. The COVID outbreak and resulting economic shutdown have created enormous problems.

In addition, one of our biggest challenges is to restore faith in government after one of the most trying episodes this nation has ever faced.

Families are struggling and jobs are disappearing as some small businesses close their doors permanently. We need to straighten out the mess at the Employment Security Department that delayed unemployment benefits for so many and allowed massive losses due to fraudulent claims. We need to stave off crippling increases in unemployment insurance taxes that could push more businesses toward closure. We also need to maintain core government services as we bring our spending in line with tax collections – which thankfully remain healthy even at a time like this.

Your voice will be more important than ever, as there will be no opportunity for in-person advocacy efforts. Most legislators won’t be allowed to work in the Capitol, as session operates in a virtual environment.

Unfortunately, we are already seeing a renewed push to move highly controversial bills that may not get the same traction in ordinary times.

This year, we’re seeing proposals for a capital gains, which is a concern in part because it could be expanded to a general income tax if it survives court challenges. Voters have said no to an income tax 10 times on the ballot.

Another proposal would enact low-carbon fuel standards, which could result in an estimated increase of 57 cents per gallon of gas. We must be cognizant of the financial impact on working families as our state works toward a green economy.

We strongly disagree with these proposals, as do many of the residents of the 16th District. But there’s a bigger issue involved. Taking advantage of the situation to pass bills like these will only increase the public’s distrust of government. Prioritizing transparency and public input must be paramount.

At a moment when distrust of government is at an all-time high, we also want to take the opportunity to call out and condemn all political violence. As we debate issues important to Washington families, we must remember representative democracy requires dialogue and respect for our democratic institutions. With that in mind and despite the mostly virtual session, there are effective ways for the public to connect and be heard. Expanded remote committee testimony has made the legislative process more accessible in many ways. Please take that opportunity to make your voice heard by engaging in testimony at www.leg.wa.gov.

We are here to serve you and welcome your input. Please stay connected using the contact information below.

The 2021 Legislative session opened Jan. 11 and runs for 105 days. During the session, here’s how you can reach us: